The Service Design Global Conference 2019 in Toronto was a get together of international designers, mainly from the North America’s, and I Nina Pennock, was there too. I will share some recurring themes, in two blogs which got a lot of attention in these two days. Service design is a seemingly young design field, but actually exists for years if you look at the pure form of service design. The following topics should be seen as attention areas, which can be a starting point for further conversation around the development of the craft service design. The themes covered here are inclusivity, trust, designing for systems and, of course, sustainability.

Good services work for people. 

When designing a service we bring to mind the person using the service, but we should also look closely at two aspects, firstly, have we thought about the person delivering the service, and secondly, do we include all users? Often persona’s are a representation of the majority of users but should actually reflect those who are ‘special’. Think about the design for someone with a handicap, if specific design solutions work for him, they are likely to work for the non-handicapped too. Hitomi Yokota (Bridgeable) facilitated an experience in a workshop of what it is like not to understand something, particularly a language handicap. Designing specifically with this handicap in mind taught me that although an image can represent 1000 words, it is a different set of words for each person. John Powell from Hypergiant goes one step further and says that if a persona does not reflect the full spectrum of people, don’t bother making them and just design for a real person. He also asks for the design of all involved humans in the service delivery, how you might ask? Well, how about we design activity centric rather than human centric. It also helps to make sure your design team is diverse and has the main user in the team. “If you are designing for women and there is no woman in the design team, don’t bother making anything work for her!” This is a concept that really speaks to me as I try to keep all users in mind when designing service delivery. 


Good services are those we trust. 

Let me ask you, do you trust the bank? Why (not)? Steph Hay (Capital One) designs for trust at the Canadian bank when creating an AI chatbot with which customers interact for their banking requests. She uses the approach that the famous Sesame Street creators used in 1966 to really and truly connect with the child who had to learn. The finding that she and also the Sesame Street makers had, was that trust is all about human emotion when connecting with someone on the other side of a screen. While emotions should be the core in the design, they are often hardest to find in a boardroom of a corporation. Steph describes the ingredients of designing a chatbot with emotions as, mapping the (emotional) words used, give boundaries for negative emotions, and finally use humour where appropriate. Taking it one step forward from designing a chat bot to designing a plausible future. Lasse Underbjerg (DesignIT and FUTURES playground) asked us: “How can you trust anything when everything is seamless and happens behind scenes?” Invisibility of our services is on the rise as well as distrust. So the question is, how do we design for digitization based on trust? At the FUTURES playground ( they are researching this topic and Lasse shared with us that the key is to keep a human perspective on what trust means. This leads to more ethical design & innovation decisions. You can also keep in mind some of the following aspects: is the trust you are asking for mutual, does it go both ways? Is there some friction, intentionally to create trust? Is the trust earned over time? Is the design transparent, can we get to see what we want to see? And are all intentions aligned, are you truly walking the talk? Trust seems easy but exists of many elements, and these two speakers (as well as others)  really urged us to think deeply about what we ask trust for. Something we, designers, will have to ask the people we design with. As most of the time, a single service is part of something bigger.


Next blog I will highlight the other two themes; ‘Good services have the right scope’ and ‘Good services do not harm the eco-system’. 

This blog was written by Nina Pennock, service designer at Nextview. If you have any questions regarding her blog or design thinking in general, feel free to reach out to here at